Leaving a trail of smile and chuckles

Ken
Ken Simmons
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Was it just seven days ago we were talking Targa, planning a wild week and ready to collect a winter’s full of stories to warm the garages over the coming cold months? How quickly things change.

I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere for event info. The day before prologue stages started, our family lost one of its senior members, and stepping away from the event was the least I could do.

Ralph Maxwell Simmons spent much of his working life at the wheel — certainly the parts of it that I can remember. Most of the people who grew up in Green’s Harbour around the time I did knew him as Ice Cream Mac, not to be confused with Tractor Mac, a few-times-removed cousin whose calling went more to heavy equipment.

My dad’s brother was a distributor for Brookfield ice cream, and for a time had two large freezer trucks that kept the sweet stuff flowing from Sunnyside to Grates Cove.

Most of the male cousins got a chance at summer work in Uncle Mac’s little enterprise, riding shotgun and carting Popsicles and the like into tiny stores and snack bars along the southern banks of Trinity Bay and around the tip of the peninsula that separates Trinity and Conception bays.

I can’t even remember how old I was when I started — 14 or 15, I guess. What I do remember are those extended drives, sometimes starting at the farthest point then working our way home, dotting the map with Drumsticks and Longtreats and leaving a trail of smiles and chuckles — the very real kind, brought on by his easy manner and cheerful wit.

Those runs were some of the earliest long hauls I can remember making, aside from occasional trips to visit family in Bonavista Bay, and there were times they felt endless to a restless teenager. These days, I would have had music stuffed into my ears or sore thumbs from some pocket-sized battery sucker. I was fortunate that those days were not these days, because our road time passed in good talk and much laughter.

Mac stayed Ice Cream Mac for a few years after I “retired,” picking up student grant work or, later, summers in provincial parks. When distribution became more centralized, the ice cream man moved to another wheel, that of a school bus, and left a new generation with memories that lift the corners of their mouths today.

It has been a long time since he had to pilot anything as unwieldy as a school bus, but it was easy enough to get a story about them out of him, or about the ice cream days or his time working for the Department of Highways.

Or, most recently, after I brought my Concours up to his door, the 1935 Indian motorcycle he rode with great zest (let’s say) but which couldn’t survive the attentions of his brothers. How he paced a car down the Trinity shore, or how he would slow down at the bottom of the lane where his family lived, chugging along until he felt the plop of his younger sister hit the passenger saddle. And away they’d ride.

Happy motoring, Uncle Mac.

Ken Simmons breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Contact him at hauler1234@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: Department of Highways.Or

Geographic location: Green, Sunnyside, Grates Cove Trinity Bay Bonavista Bay

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  • Pam Hefford
    September 18, 2010 - 20:24

    A fitting tribute to a wonderful man , one who most everyone on the Trinity Shore remembers as Ice Cream Mac I can remember the excitement , when his truck stopped at the local store and waiting to check out the latest goodies that he brought ....I too remember him with much respect...He will be be fondly remembered and greatly missed.